Race Weekend Central

Voices From the Heartland: Jimmie Johnson Named “Most Influential Athlete” in 1 Company’s Eyes Only

If I were to come up to you and ask you who you thought the most influential athlete in America was, would you honestly spout out Jimmie Johnson? I mean, yeah, YOU might, simply because you are logged into a website devoted to stock car racing, so the results, if I were to ask it here, might be a little skewed, but seriously? Heck, chances are, even if we did ask that question on here, I still doubt Jimmie Johnson would top the list! Remember, we are talking ‘athlete’, not just ‘stock car driver!’

Imagine my surprise when I read that Jimmie had indeed been named, America’s Most Influential Athlete! There it was, right there amongst all the latest NASCAR-related news, on that one web portal that millions of fans flock to for their daily NASCAR fix. I had to investigate further. A few links and wasted brain cells later, here is what I found out.

While this fabulous news was aimed directly at the NASCAR fan in a shameless attempt to make you think that Jimmie had actually accomplished something special, he did not. There was no fanfare, no ceremony, not even an award (that I am aware of). All this news is based on, is the answers to a poll of 1,000 people. Yes, that is right, 1,000 people! What is the population of this country now, 350 million or something like that?

At any rate, if you take the time to read the full story, you will find that it is nothing more than an attempt to lead you (the NASCAR sheep) straight to the cash register (the slaughter!)

This is a poll that is strictly market research (my favorite thing as you know) and was created solely for self righteous, uppity, upper management types of large corporations. In other words, Brian France probably had an “early” accident in his pants when he read it. And you know he read it because it was put out there by Forbes. I just don’t see Brian sitting on the can with a copy of the latest Hot Rod magazine. Just sayin’.

OK, so it is market research. I understand that to run a successful business, you need to know who your costumers are. That is a no-brainer. However, if you go by the polls own numbers, there are a few things I DON’T understand. For instance, here is a small bit from the news release that explains the poll.

‘E-Poll and Nielsen Media Research surveyed over 1,000 adults as to the athletes they considered influential, while also assessing their likeability and awareness levels. Only those known to at least 20% of the respondents were considered. That eliminated boxer Manny Pacquiao, who scores the highest influence numbers of anyone, but who’s familiar to only 12% of the population. What does it say about boxing that its most exciting champion toils in near anonymity?

I left that last part about Manny Pacquiao in for reasons that will become clear in a moment. Anyway, the poll had these categories: Influential, Awareness, Like/Like a lot, Dislike/Dislike a lot and the (supposedly) all important N-Score, which they list as ‘endorsement potential.’

Now, in this years top 10, there were three NASCAR drivers. Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon rated first, third and eighth respectively. Let’s start with Gordon.

Jeff Gordon, 8th
Influential: 20%
Awareness: 39%
Like/Like a lot: 35%
Dislike/Dislike a lot: 7%
N-Score (endorsement potential): 144 (avg. athlete 14)

Dale Jr. 3rd
Influential: 22%
Awareness: 40%
Like/Like a lot: 45%
Dislike/Dislike a lot: 3%
N-Score (endorsement potential): 217

Jimmie Johnson, 1st
Influential: 25%
Awareness: 20%
Like/Like a lot: 47%
Dislike/Dislike a lot: 6%
N-Score (endorsement potential): 72

Market research not withstanding, can someone please explain to me how Johnson rates first place with those numbers? That just does not make sense. And remember what the poll said about Manny Pacquiao? Well what does it say about NASCAR that its historic five-time champion toils with HALF the public awareness of the third- and eighth-place guys on the list!!

In fact, when it comes to ‘Awareness,’ Johnson barely makes the list and is only one percentage point higher than number 10, Tim Tebow, who theoretically, by their own minimum standards of 20%, shouldn’t even be on the list! Oh! Let’s not forget the all important N-Score! Johnson, 72. Tebow, 41 !!!

Another point to ponder. How many commercials (different companies) have you ever seen Jimmie Johnson in?

Folks, I’m not writing this to try and take anything away or negate Jimmie Johnson’s talent as a champion NASCAR driver. I just want folks to know the truth. Jimmie Johnson did not save a bunch of kids in Haiti (well maybe, but I never heard of it), he didn’t find a cure for cancer, he didn’t over come some insanely insurmountable odds to be where he is today. All he did (thanks to Brian’s ‘Chase’) was become “Ole Five-in-a-row.”

All this is just a tool (and a sorely misguided one at that) for some big corporation to try and get the guy, who is known for being bland and vanilla, but somehow has suddenly become the most influential athlete in America, to hock their products for them. I think Lowe’s has that covered!

Stay off the wall, (and off the list!)

Jeff Meyer

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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